I wanted to take a minute and explore something a little different today. In 2017 there are lots of options available to a player who is looking to pick up cards online. TCGplayer.com. Starcity Games. Ebay. Facebook Groups. Twitter. Really, there are so many places to get cards without leaving your home that it is amazing. I mean, just tonight I ordered a bunch of cards from one of my favorite online vendors for a couple of EDH decks without ever leaving my computer desk. If you had told me that 10 years ago I think I would have scoffed.
Well, there is another platform that has fallen slightly on hard times and that’s Pucatrade. For those who are not fully aware Pucatrade is an online trading platform that allows you to trade cards to another player in exchange for Puca Points, a fictional currency created by Pucatrade. One of the barriers to having people trade is always finding cards of relative equal value that each party wants. Pucatrade is supposed to eliminate that by trading my points for your Card, and then you can use the points to get the card(s) that you want. It is a genius system and for a period of time was a fantastic way to move cards.
The problem was that this fictional currency was supposed to value 1 pucapoint (hereafter shortened to pp) at roughly 1 penny. However, since Pucatrade gave each new user the opportunity to start their account off with several hundred pp’s means that the internal economy of Pucatrade was creating this currency from nothing and adding more and more points causing an inflationary effect that had people in the game very concerned. The relative value of the pp dropped, the flow of cards dropped significantly, and the Puca world ground to a screeching halt.
Pucatrade took a number of steps to try and correct this imbalance by creating ways to help sink the number of points in the system by removing some through a number of initiatives. The have monthly sweepstakes, they have a form of guarantee fee, and they made use of promoted trades to legitimize bonuses. They also tried new ways to connect their users like using Discord, an online chat forum that allows players to connect like never before. These new systems were supposed to help make trading easier and to help make Pucatrade a force once again.
Well, they succeeded in revitalizing Pucatrade and it is once again seeing cards flow all over the world. However, the system has changed. While Puca was busy establishing itself again and draining out points, Discord allowed traders to connect and a reciprocal trade system facilitated through Pucatrade started to take root. This means people went back to the old way of trading cards for cards and were using Pucatrade to connect. There was a reduced emphasis on points and instead people traded cards for cards. Let me say that I have no issue with reciprocal trading. Frankly, it makes sense and using Puca as a platform to facilitate this only makes sense. Unless you are a small player without a huge card base and then you have nothing to reciprocate, meaning you get cut out of the system. We are gradually seeing a move back to the use of more points as the basis for trades, but there are still plenty of users who will only take reciprocal trades. I am an active user of Pucatrade and can see such discussions on Discord and find the process frustrating for a number of reasons.
The number one reason I find the whole system frustrating is that I have chosen to use Pucatrade to move cards of much lower value and to amass points in the hopes of landing more expensive cards to use in my decks. I mean, that is the dream isn’t it? If you could move X number of lower value cards and package them up to get enough for a more expensive rare or mythic, would you do it? The answer is likely yes. As a smaller play who plays Magic on a very tight budget I can only acquire so many cards in a month. As a casual player who pays for much of his cards by accumulating Amazon credit through the completion of Online Surveys I usually find myself picking packs of sealed product and popping them. This means I likely only have 1 or 2 of any given rare, but I have plenty of commons and uncommons I am prepared to trade and thus I scour Pucatrade for players looking for stray commons/uncommons and amassing my points slowly over time.
At this point, people ask me why do I use Pucatrade at all if I am trading cards with such small values? It is true. I take a loss on each transaction I make because I usually send cards that are worth well south of a dollar. I can’t deny this. However, I look at it this way: these commons and uncommons are already a sunk cost and if I don’t move them then they will continue to sit in a box and collect dust until some day I have to sell them for bulk where I will get $3/1000 . I would rather take my chances and move them for somewhat more, particularly if I can save the value gained in something like Pucapoints and then use those points for something more worthwhile. So, yes I take a loss, but they are a loss in the first place, so I may as well move them in order to get SOMETHING I can use back. I do limit the number of trades I make in a week so as to not cripple my tight budget, but I do make regular trades.
Well, at this point, even with Discord and routinely engaging in some of the conversations I find that there are very few people interested in sending me cards because I can’t reciprocate. I have managed to amass a rather high amount of pp’s and it would seem as if the points aren’t enough to entice other players to trade. Is it MY fault that I don’t have that chase Modern card they are looking for? No. So, the only collateral I have is my points and that isn’t enough. That is going to be an issue at some point down the road, but right now it is something that I can still work around.
Basically, as much as it sucks to not receive cards via trade because of the changing nature of Pucatrade, it has allowed me to amass a fairly high number of points. I know I take a hit on every transaction, but to have close to 4000 points (which is big if you consider I make smaller trades) I have clearly made a lot of trades and not had too many points get drained out of my account. That situation suits me just fine for the moment because I can continue to build up my points with an eye towards getting some cards that I do want to use. However, when I decide that I need to start using my points, if it is difficult to essentially turn my points into cards, I will be disappointed.
Which leads me to the final conclusion that I can derive from these observations. I am an active user on Pucatrade and know that the system does indeed work. However, while I’m active, I am very much a small user both in volume of points and trades made. While I am on Discord, I can’t reciprocate very often and need to rely on my points if I want to get anything and thus usually have little to offer to any discussion on the platform where people are soliciting particular things. I have not seen anything apart from one single trade in well over 6 months despite my regular, but admittedly small, activity. I can only conclude that I am a forgotten user of Pucatrade. No one picks up my points, I can’t reciprocate much of anything, and the system only works in largely one direction and that is outgoing.
So, my words are as follows to those people who are using Pucatrade: Please don’t forget the little guys. We are crucial to the system because it is our continued participation and investment into the system that will help give the system greater legitimacy. Right now, people are still spooked by the prospect of having Pucatrade implode, but by having a broad and diverse user base then the system can continue to flourish and regain the trust of the countless users who have walked away from the platform. Besides, you WANT me ( and casual players like me) in the system because, as many of the finance podcasts point out, many of the cards that casual players such as myself open up rarely end up in the market because I toss them in a box and sit on them for “later”. However, if I can find a reasonable way to move that fancy, competitively geared card I opened up in my random pack then the bigger players will have a few more copies out there in the “wild” to help mitigate against issues of supply. Do not discount the power of a casual player because it is exactly the casual crowd that will decide to keep opening up packs of older stuff because that is what we decided we wanted to open. In a few months, Amonkhet will be all the rage, but where then will competitive players look to find Verdurous Gearhulk? Liliana the Last Hope? Torrential Gearhulk? You will be asking casual players to open up their boxes and to put their cards on the market. If Pucatrade is once again going to be a viable option and be easy to use and ensure people get cards back in return then perhaps larger, more vested players need to make a point of taking care of the little guys. Zero our accounts, regardless if we are promoting the trade or not, because if we want points again and can see that the system works then we are more apt to open up our boxes stashed in our closets and find a few extra copies of what splashy card you are looking for. However, if the system continues to only address the needs of the enfranchised, competitive player that is prepared to sink larger sums of money into the game then casual players will walk away, take their cards with them, and find other ways to use their cards. It is in the interest on everyone to make sure that everyone who is active and using Pucatrade gets some share of their wants or else the system starts to fall apart.
Thanks very much for bearing with me I as I worked through something decidedly heavier and less enjoyable. I love to play Magic and part of the joy of the game is the acquisition of that perfect card for your deck. Pucatrade used to be a fabulous way to help everyone make that challenge more attainable and I would like to see for it to return to some of its former glory. Just knowing that I COULD get a card or two through the system would be amazing and make the process of building my decks much easier. However, Pucatrade has a long way to go to regain some of that past success and in the meantime players are going to find other ways to get their cards.
Thanks for stopping by for another Casual Encounter. If you have thoughts or ideas, by all means leave a comment down below or find me on Twitter @bgray8791. Take care and don’t forget to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.